Types of Insomnia (3+)


Author bio

Page last updated: 18/11/2022

Types of Insomnia

In this guide, we will discuss the different types of insomnia and their characteristics.

Types of insomnia: How many are there? 

The different types of insomnia according to the Sleep Foundation can be classified in:

  • Acute insomnia
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Comorbid insomnia
  • Onset insomnia
  • Maintenance insomnia

Insomnia: a living nightmare

If you are reading this is because more likely you have been rolling around the bed, closing your eyes as hard as you can and trying to keep them closed, but nothing seems to work.

You can’t seem to go to sleep as you used to before. This could be referred to as insomnia.

Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder that makes it hard falling asleep or staying asleep.

This causes major difficulties for the person during daylight activities since they can report feeling tired and fatigued throughout the day.

 It is said that insomnia affects considerably more women than older adults, lasting for a few days or weeks or long term. 

Other than sleeping disorders like Insomnia, there are other disorders related to sleep. For example, the nightmare disorder.

What is insomnia?

 Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. 

According to WebMD, here are some of the symptoms that may indicate you are suffering from insomnia:

  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Feeling tired upon waking
  • General tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Problems with concentration or memory
Types of Insomnia (3+)

Sub-Types of insomnia

The National Sleep Foundation states there are 5 Sub-types of insomnia categorized into Acute insomnia, Chronic insomnia, comorbid insomnia, onset insomnia, and maintenance insomnia.

However, some experts indicate that comorbid insomnia is a subtype of chronic insomnia and in addition to it, they add behavioral insomnia of childhood. 

Additionally, some even say there are 11 sub-types of insomnia. Let’s take a look at them.

Adjustment insomnia

This is a difficulty associated with a major life change such as moving, starting a new job or getting married.

The transition can be positive as having a child or negative as the loss of a pet.

Stress and anxiety and lack of familiarity are underlying factors of adjustment insomnia.

This typically tends to resolve on its own once you adjust.

Drug-induced insomnia

Drug-induced insomnia can be caused by certain medications or substances such as caffeine, nicotine, and psychoactive substances. 

 Insomnia-related symptoms can also derive from withdrawal or stopping certain medications, such as antidepressants.

Acute insomnia

This is considered the most common type of insomnia, and it is characterized by being a brief and temporary episode of difficulty sleeping.

This is usually associated with a stressful life event such as losing your job or receiving bad news.

James Fisher, MD from Healthline, refers that there are additional causes related that are also related to stress as:

  • Disrupted sleep due to environmental factors such as noises or lights.
  • Physical discomfort, such as being in pain or unable to assume a comfortable position.
  • Unfamiliar places to sleep such as a hotel, a friend’s house or a new home.
  • Medications. 
  • Being ill.
  • Jet lag.

Chronic insomnia

This is characterized by being a long-term pattern of difficulty sleeping.

It is considered chronic when during a period of three nights per week for three months or more, the person has been having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Chronic insomnia can be associated with many causes.

In addition, chronic insomnia can be divided into primary and secondary insomnia.

Primary chronic insomnia (also called idiopathic), doesn’t seem to have a related or obvious cause or derived from a medical condition.

The secondary chronic insomnia (also referred to as comorbid insomnia) occurs with another condition such as anxiety or depression. 

The most common causes according to James Fisher, MD are:

  • Severe or chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, obstructive/central apnea, cancer, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia among others. 
  • Having depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  • Using medication such as chemotherapy drugs, antidepressants, and beta-blockers.
  • Ingesting caffeine or other stimulants such as alcohol or smoking. 
  • Lifestyle. Such as having to travel frequently (jet lag) or having a rotating shift at work or sleeping during the day. 

Comorbid insomnia

This is the type of insomnia that occurs with another condition simultaneously.

For example, psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

Additionally, certain medical conditions can also cause insomnia or make a person uncomfortable at night time (e.g. arthritis or back pain).

Onset insomnia

Difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night. Related causes could be having a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety or depression.

In addition to this, having another sleep disorder such as restless leg syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder or drinking coffee or using other stimulants can make it difficult to fall asleep.

It can be temporary, acute or chronic. 

Middle insomnia

With this type of insomnia, it is very frequent to get up in the middle of the night and having difficulties when trying to go back to sleep.

It is often associated with alcohol use and chronic pain.

Maintenance Insomnia

Inability to stay asleep. People with this type of insomnia often wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty falling asleep again. 

Some identified causes are having a mental condition such as depression or having other medical problems such as reflux disease, sleep apnea, asthma or other respiratory condition, restless leg syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder. 

Behavioral insomnia of Childhood

It is divided into three subtypes:

  • Behavioral insomnia of childhood sleep-onset usually results from negative associations to sleep such as being used to going to sleep by being nursed.
  • Behavioral insomnia of childhood limit-setting: this involves a child refusing to go to sleep and the many attempts to trying to put him into bed (e.g. asking for something to eat or drink, asking to go to the bathroom or to read them a story).
  • Behavioral insomnia of childhood combined type: this combines two forms of BIC. This happens when a child not only has a negative association with sleep and is reluctant to go to bed but also loss of authority or the child not seeing you as an authority figure. 

Types of insomnia: Side effects

There are many risks associated with insomnia, and they usually end up affecting your mental and physical health in a detrimental and negative way, impacting your day to day functioning.

Some of the side effects include:

  • Low performance at work/school or daily activities.
  • Increased risk of having an accident.
  • Increased risk of developing depression, anxiety or any other related mental health conditions.
  • The increased risk of developing heart disease, strokes or obesity.

Treatments for insomnia

The treatment will depend on the cause or subtype.

If you have acute insomnia, then as a treatment option you could manage your stress with certain techniques or using an over the counter sleeping aid. 

Chronic insomnia may require more effort to discover the underlying cause of insomnia.

To help with chronic insomnia, your doctor could suggest trying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia or prescribing medications like Zopiclone.

Diagnosing insomnia

It is not only necessary to tell your doctor about the problems you may have been experiencing with your sleep patterns but also keeps track of them and writing down the symptoms could help your doctor determine with certainty if you are suffering from insomnia. 

Additionally, your doctor could suggest (as part of the assessment process) that you go for a sleep study to check if there are any comorbid sleep disorders. 

Moreover, according to WebMD, your doctor might apply the Epworth sleepiness scale to assess daytime sleepiness, ask for a polysomnogram, actigraphy (to assess sleep-wake patterns over time) and a mental health exam. 

Alternative sleeping products to help you sleep

According to Health.com, there are 11 products that can help you with your insomnia here is our top 5.

White noise machine

This machine emits white noise to help mask environmental sounds that can prevent you from falling asleep or disturbing your sleep and keeping you awake.

This machine comes with 20 unique sounds and a range of volume levels.

Sleep spray

This pillow spray contains calming ingredients like lavender and chamomile, you just simply spray some into your pillow before bedtime to help you fall asleep more easily.

Eye mask

The trustworthy eye mask never gets old. It is a silky soft luxurious looking mask that will help you avoid getting your sleep interrupted by your partner turning on the lights or the  projected lights from the TV or cellphone.  

A new mattress

How long ago did you buy your mattress? 5 or 10 years maybe?

It is important to buy a new mattress from time to time, this will help you sleep better and more comfortable than before. 

Fresh Pillow

Can’t live without them, right?

Having the appropriate pillow will help you get into a better position and avoid the painful neck pain in the morning.

Also, if you are allergic, we recommend getting a hypoallergenic pillow. 

Why is this blog post about Types of insomnia important?

It is important to understand insomnia is real and many people suffer from it, which makes it very common.

You could be thinking you are suffering from insomnia so this guide can help you better understand the types of insomnia depending on the frequency and when it is necessary to look for help. 

If you are suffering from insomnia or have identified your type of insomnia please feel free to comment in the comments section below!

Additionally, if you want to visit a nice coffee shop or cafe to spend some time with family or friends, you should visit the Insomnia coffee.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about types of insomnia

What are the 3 types of insomnia?

The 3 types of insomnia are transient, acute and chronic insomnia.

What are the two types of insomnia?

There are two types of insomnia: Primary and secondary insomnia.

Primary is related to having sleep problems not evidently associated with health conditions or problems.

In addition, secondary insomnia refers to having sleeping problems related to health conditions, pain or medication. 

What is the main cause of insomnia?

The main cause of insomnia is said to be stress.

Concerns about daily life activities, health issues, financial problems or traumatic events such as the death of someone close. 

Can you die from insomnia?

Yes, you can die from insomnia but as an indirect cause of death.

Usually, having trouble sleeping or staying asleep can cause certain health conditions that can get complications and eventually results in death.

What is pseudoinsomnia?

Pseudoinsomnia is a diagnostic term adopted by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders to replace 2 previously used diagnostic criteria for sleep disorders. 

  1. The Effortless Sleep Method: The Incredible New Cure for Insomnia and Chronic Sleep Problems
  2. This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, 75 ml
  3. Vivida Lifestyle Natural Silk Blackout Sleep Eye Mask — 100% Light-Blocking with Ultra Soft Skin-Friendly Fabric
  4. How to Sleep Better: 43 practical tips to help you beat insomnia.
  5. Sleep Aid Helps Sleep Insomnia Remedy 48 Tablets Sleep Disturbance Herbal Relief



Sleep Foundation